Required Capability

What capability do we want our Defence Force to have?

The purpose of the NZDF is to operate destructive capital. It would be perfectly possible for the NZDF to consist purely of a wing (72) of air superiority fighters with a bombing capability. Lead-in training could be out-sourced to New Zealand corporations and the Royal Australian Air Force. The result would be a defence force which, in the advent of hostilities, would be deployable, add significant strategic benefit to our allies (almost doubling Australian air superiority) and be extremely good at preventing invasions, if not submarine attacks. The problem is that it is almost guaranteed that a wing of combat fighters would be totally useless for responding to most of the risks facing New Zealand.
 
I make this reductio-ad-absurdem argument to point out that combat capability is not high on the requirements of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Risk-based Capability Requirement

The Response to risks page details a number of capabilities ( Colour-coded: Military, Police, Civil Defence, Environmental Protection)
 
Special Forces* ( Terrorism, Piracy, Sea-mining, Low intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High intensity wars) = 6 functions
 
Engineering Corps*  (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Pandemic, Terrorism, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars= 9 functions

Helicopters* (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Agricultural epidemic, Chemical fire, Chemical/oil spill, Unsustainable Fisheries, Maritime SAR, Terrorism, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 14 functions

Marine Helicopters (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical/oil spill, Unsustainable Fisheries, Maritime SAR, Terrorism, Sea-mining, State-failure, Piracy, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars, Submarines, Antarctic) = 16 functions

Heavy-lift helicopters (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical/oil spill, State failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars)= 9 functions

Mobile field hospitals* ( Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Pandemic,  Chemical/oil spill, Terrorism, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars ) = 10 functions

Land Logistics/Transport*  (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Pandemic, Chemical/oil spill, Terrorism, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 10 functions

Military Police / SAR*  (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Pandemic, Chemical/oil spill, Terrorism, State-failure, Low intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 10 functions

Field Mortuary* ( Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical fire,Terrorism, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 10 functions

Robot aircraft*  ( Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Pandemic, Chemical fire,Terrorism, Piracy, Sea-mining, State-failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 13 functions

Transport Aircraft ( Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Agricultural epidemic, Chemical/oil spill, Maritime SAR, Piracy, Terrorism, State failure, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars) = 12 functions

Ocean Surveillance Aircraft  (Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical/oil spill, Unsustainable Fisheries, Maritime SAR, Terrorism, State failure, Sea-Mining, Piracy, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars, Submarines, Antarctic) =16 functions

Light fast multipurpose ship ( Volcano, Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical/oil spill, Unsustainable Fisheries, Maritime SAR, Terrorism, Sea-mining, State-failure, Piracy, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, High-intensity wars, Submarines, Antarctic) = 16 functions

Self-loading Logistics Ship  ( Earthquake, Tsunami, Cyclone-Flood, Chemical/oil spill, State failure, Piracy, Low-intensity wars, Occupation/Guerilla wars, Antarctic) = 9 functions

NB Units with an asterisk* are not self-deploying outside New Zealand.

Risks that do not require a military response are outlined in blue

By contrast we might examine:

Main Battle Tanks ( Terrorism, Occupation/Guerilla Wars, High-intensity wars) = 3 functions

Air Superiority Fighters (Terrorism, Occupation/Guerilla Wars, High-intensity wars) = 3 functions

Frigates ( Earthquake, Sea-mining, Unsustainable Fishing, Piracy, High-intensity wars, Submarines, Antarctic) = 7 functions

Conclusions about the force

The following capabilities have the best risk profile:

 Risks System Comments
 16 Marine helicoptersThere are not many ways long-range marine helicopters aren't useful
  Light Fast Multipurpose ShipLight fast multi purpose ships inevitably suit our location
  Ocean Surveillance AircraftThe P3K Orions have proved extremely useful over their lifetimes
 14 HelicoptersLand helicopters are almost as useful as sea ones (or they could be the same)
 13 Robot Aircraft (UAVs)There are reasons why these things are so popular internationally
 12 Transport AircraftThe C-130s have been as busy as the Orions
 10 Military PoliceIncreasingly the distinction between soldiers and police is blurring. Increasingly military police are deployed as peacekeepers. 
  Logistics/TransportThere are times you need to provide logistics where civilians won't go.
  Mobile HospitalWhen things are bad, you need a mobile hospital
  Field MortuaryManaging remains is no small task 
 9 Engineer CorpsField engineering can be a civilian function but there are situations where a military outlook is needed
  Self-loading logistics shipWhere there is no port, this ship becomes one, as well as providing support in shipwrecks and carrying large cargoes
  Heavy lift helicoptersHeavy lift helicopters can be useful sometimes, but are they worth the expense? 
7 FrigatesFrigates can do some specialist military functions others can't do, but are they worth the cost.
 6 Special forcesRarely needed, but very flexible and relatively cheap to operate

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this list is the low ranking of the frigates. There is also no real role for light infantry. Other than that this force looks not unlike the one we have.

As part of a deployability requirement we should also place priority on those items of capital on which other items rely. As has already been noted at the moment any failure of the HMNZS Canterbury limits the deployability of the current force to the aged and somewhat small C-130s.

 Carrier Carries  Comments
 Logistics shipMarine helicopters, MPs,Logistics, Mobile Hospital, Field mortuary, Engineers Corps,Slow but large, carries nearly everything
 Light Fast Multipurpose ShipMarine helicopters, MPs,Logistics, Mobile Hospital, Field mortuary, Engineers Corps, Special forcesSmall and fast, the fleet loads quickly and carries lots broken down
 Transport AircraftHelicopters, MPs,Logistics, Mobile Hospital, Field mortuary, Engineers Corps, Special forces, Fast but limited carrying capability
 Heavy lift helicoptersHelicopters, MPs,Logistics, Mobile Hospital, Field mortuary, Engineers Corps, Special forces  Useful for outsize loads only (eg containers)
 Logistics/TransportLogistics, Mobile Hospital, Field mortuary, Engineers Corps,Land based transport to support other land elements

Evaluation Requirement

Obviously some form of cost-benefit is required to distinguish those military functions which cannot be replaced by the civil sector (otherwise one could simply contract them to civilian providers), and those which are so limited in military scope that they are unlikely to be deployed in their lifetimes ( air superiority fighters). 

Secondly the residual capability should not result in incoherence. The Force should fit together as a complete self-supporting team. Wherever possible overlapping capability should result in condensed functionality. So if one capital system can do two roles all the better.
 
Thirdly the force must be sustainable over time. There is no point creating a force that nobody wants to join or remain in, or is so expensive that it becomes inevitable that it is broken up in times of financial constraint.

In summary the NZDF must be
  • Capable of functions not sub-contractable to civilians
  • Function not so specialised that is insurance against a limited range of military risks only
  • The whole system works together
  • The force is sustainable economically and organisationally

Evaluation by Military Function

The primary military function is killing people and destroying things. Only the military and the Police are legally given the right to organise for this. But to evaluate the benefit/cost of this function we require qualitative criteria for the force as a whole. How do we kill people and destroy things? 
There are a number of options:

Efficiently - i.e with the least effort on our part, we kill the most of our enemies.
This was pretty much the goal of 1980s military development. The result was scatter-mines, cluster-bombs, rotary-barrel automatic weapons, fuel-air explosives, Sarin, GE bioweapons and tactical nuclear weapons. This approach only works in an anticipation of politically unconstrained warfare.

Stealthily - i.e without appearing to inflict harm, we do so.
The stealthy approach favours weapons and systems with plausible deniability. It would suit cyber-warfare agents, biowarfare, Q-ships, Q-aircraft, special forces and secret agents. While stealth is very effective it creates a certain odium for the nation which uses it. It is also hard from a political perspective to argue in favour of a rules-based international order when your military is based on breaking those rules.

Precision- i.e we inflict the least necessary harm, as accurately as possible. 
The precise approach is the most politically acceptable approach. It involves getting up-close, accuracy, least collateral damage and the most wisdom. Unfortunately it requires more training, more intelligence and the most precise weaponry. It also exposes one's own forces to the most risk.

Of these New Zealand's diplomacy fundamentally requires the Precise approach.

The next question is who are we trying to kill, and what do we want to be able to destroy? From the top down the lethality of a system is the ability to destroy or kill:

9. Nations
8. Cities
7. Hardened targets and infrastructure  (dams, command bunkers,missile silos, submarine bases)
6. Defended capital ships    (aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates)
5. Hardened combat craft   ( Submarines, Fast attack craft, strike bombers, fighters, heavy armoured fighting vehicles )
4. Soft targets and infrastructure  ( bridges, transmission lines, fuel tanks, ports, large civilian ships, airliners)
3. Light combat craft     ( patrol boats, maritime patrol aircraft, transport aircraft, light armoured vehicles)
2. Militarised civilian craft  ( pirate launches, Technicals, armed helicopters or light aircraft )
1. Gunmen ( men on foot with automatic weapons )
0. Civilians ( unarmed people, fishing boats etc)

Currently the NZDF limits its ambitions to level 5 to a range of about 3km. Israel (a small nation) by comparison goes to level 8 to a range of about 6,000 nautical miles. New Zealand could do the same if it adopted a stealth approach to its military but it would become a rogue state and collapse economically. 

Most of the time therefore the threat is gunmen or militarised civilian craft or levels 1 and 2. 

New Zealand relies on a rules-based international order for its export-based economy. It is not in a position to use its military to adopt any other diplomatic stance. Level 5 implies entering into armed conflict with economically significant nation states.  This would be less than diplomatically optimal.

Ideally New Zealand wants to field a tactical deterrent to military escalation (i.e. a reasonable expectation that the use of force against the NZ military will come at a significant tactical cost) by foreign commanders but does not want to enter into a strategic deterrent or arms-race, it can't afford.

In summary
  • NZ forces must be capable of a credible tactical deterrent against hardened combat craft.

Evaluation by Political Function

The military function is a sub-set of the overall political function of the military. The political aspect of deployment is essentially the news media. One can have an effective tactical deterrent to foreign military capable of careful and judicious violence which is readily defeated politically. Examples are the Palestinian use of stone-throwing youths against armed soldiers. It would be trivial to massacre these people but it would create a massive political reaction. It is therefore essential  that the military has scaleable options for the use of force ranging from non-lethal to very deadly and accurate.
 
Ideally this means that military systems are add-ons to basic functionality appropriate to the conditions. That means New Zealand forces aren't forced to respond to low level challenges (youth's throwing rocks) with main battle tanks because that's all we have. It also means that a relatively innocuous platform must be capable of being field-upgraded to a highly accurate and deadly combat system with relative ease, if that is, in fact, required.
 
Recalling the broad political requirements of: Deployability; Maintainability; Efficiency and Safety we should also stipulate:
 
Deployability - All NZDF systems should be deployable by NZDF assets without outside assistance.
Maintainability - All NZDF systems should be maintainable anywhere in the world at short notice
Efficiency - NZDF systems should be at least as efficient as civilian counterparts where functionality is similar.
Safety - The Defence Force should spend the same amount on protecting Force personnel lives as the NZTA spends per life saved on the roads (e.g. $4m).